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An Introduction to Configurable Items

CSM on Box

Suite Engine is excited to introduce configurable items to Channel Sales Manager (CSM), our multi-channel extension that integrates Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central with popular eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Amazon, and BigCommerce channels in Business Central. This release highlights adding requested functionality to CSM by introducing functionality that allows clients to create a variety of colors, sizes, styles, etc. attached to an item created in Microsoft Business Central.

What’s a Configurable Item?

Configurable Items consist of two item types. Let’s explore the difference between the two items.

Simple Items: As you can guess from its name, a simple item is straightforward and basic with no advanced or enhanced categorization. Simple products are recommended to be used for a single unit with no special selectable options.

Configurable Items: A configurable item is a single product that you offer in different variants based on variable attributes or characteristics. Let’s say we have a pencil that comes in different colors. From an order entry perspective, we present a single pencil item on our website, but when a customer clicks on that listing, they then have the ability to select from a list of available colors. So, while the item is presented as part of a single listing, there is also visibility into each color variation in order to support such things as inventory tracking, for example.

Depending on your business, you may include configurable items as part of your product portfolio.

Infinite Variations, Infinite Headaches

Companies that sell configurable items through their eCommerce sales channels face some unique challenges:

    1. Creating and maintaining all of an item’s variable combinations in your ERP system can require dealing with a large volume of records. Let’s say we sell a pair of pants in 10 different colors, 12 different waist sizes, and 4 different lengths. That comes out to 480 unique records someone has to set up! And, going forward, maintenance is going to be significant. If we wanted to add a new color, that’s 48 more SKUs that need to be created!
    2. Companies typically employ multiple sales channels to attract as wide a range of customers as possible. In such a scenario, each channel is going to have its own way of handling the attributes that represent an item’s configurable characteristics. For example, some platforms have a concept of “shared” attributes, while others do not.

Between the overwhelming volume of records you may have to deal with on the ERP side and the lack of standardization of how attributes and items are handled across different eCommerce platforms, the prospect of setting up this type of item structure in your business software can seem daunting.

Configurable items are a challenge because there are so many different ways they are defined by users and by external platforms. We believe we have come up with a solution that is flexible and robust.

Matt Street, CSM Product Architect | Suite Engine

Solutions: How do we alleviate these pain points?

Thankfully, Suite Engine has added the necessary tools to CSM that make the process of creating and maintaining a configurable item and all of its variable characteristics simple and straightforward.

Suite Engine’s new Item Variations module reduces the process of creating the hundred or so items or variants that represent a configurable item’s variable combinations into just a few minutes of setup. After defining an item’s variable attributes (such as color or size) and attribute values (such as red, blue, small, or large), you can instruct Business Central to instantly create records for all attribute combinations. This functionality is built not only to support the initial setup of this structure, but to make the process of adding new values a breeze and the process is largely the same from channel to channel.

Most people just assume it is for color and size, but it can be other things if that is what their products need. This solution can handle up to three configurable attributes per item. These variable combinations can be set up as unique items or item variants in Business Central. Different channels handle configurable attributes in different ways, shared or specific to a particular product, and we support all of these different attribute management scenarios.

Christine Henderson, CSM Product Developer | Suite Engine

For complete details of this release, please see the Suite Engine Help Product Documentation and/or release notes:

 


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